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BMA refuses to engage with consultant pay review process amid call for reform

BMJ 2021; 374 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n2192 (Published 07 September 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;374:n2192
  1. Elisabeth Mahase
  1. The BMJ

Consultants in England will not engage with the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration (DDRB) process this year and are instead calling for urgent negotiations with the government, the BMA has said.

The decision came after a BMA survey taken by 6000 consultants found that over 80% believed this year’s pay increase of 3%, which was below inflation, to be inadequate or completely unacceptable, while 91% said it showed that the government did not value the work they had done or were expected to do.

The BMA’s Consultants Committee said that the DDRB was originally set up as an independent body that would give doctors assurance that their standard of living would not be depressed by arbitrary government action but that this had not happened. Instead, after a series of government imposed pay freezes and pay caps, the estimated take home pay of the average consultant had fallen by more than 28% in real terms since 2008.

As a result, consultants in England had lost faith in the current pay review process, and the DDRB and its processes must now be reformed, the BMA said.

In a letter to England’s health secretary, Sajid Javid, the Consultants Committee chair, Vishal Sharma, wrote, “No process can be considered independent where the parameters of review can be set arbitrarily by government; the membership of the Review Body is selected solely by government; the final reports can be held by government indefinitely, without being released to the profession; and the recommendations are not binding on government.”

He added that the DDRB’s terms of reference must be reviewed to include major concerns such as pension taxation and the recruitment and retention of doctors.

Commenting on the letter, Sharma said, “Consultants have lost all trust in the review body, their decisions, and the government’s management of a process that is no longer offering evidence based, independent pay recommendations.

“Changing the way pay is awarded, and restoring the original remit and arrangements for the pay review body, is about more than just fair pay; it is about securing the future consultant workforce at a time that the NHS can ill afford to lose any more doctors.”

In the same survey the BMA also asked consultants whether they would consider industrial action over the pay award, but the results of this have not been released.1

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